11th November – 14th November – Trevelin and Esquel

One of the reasons I wanted to come to Patagonia in the first place was the Welsh heritage, so here we are in Trevelin, one of the towns that retains not only Welsh place names but also language, where plenty of people siarad at least a tipyn bach of Cymraeg. As well as optional free classes, the primary schools have just started teaching it to infants and there is an exchange programme where teachers from Wales come here to teach Welsh. They even have eisteddfodau!

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After a 26-hour coach journey (actually surprisingly comfortable) plus a 30 minute ‘collectivo’ bus from Esquel – which seemed to also be the school bus, so even more memories of Wales for me – we were very happy to arrive at our cabin-with-a-view:

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It was actually rather refreshing to be self-catering so we enjoyed a salad and some wine while sitting on our verandah and playing with the friendly cats.

Exploring the town the next day:

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Tri-lingual welcome sign – Mari Mari is the Mapuche greeting.
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Bilingual signs in town.

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A must do: tea at ‘Nain Maggie‘s’ ; tearooms managed by the descendants of Maggie Freeman Jones, one of the party of Welsh settlers who crossed from the initial settlement of Trelew/Gaiman on the east coast in 1891. Maggie was 14 at the time, and she lived to be 103, apparently lucid to the end. What an incredible life!

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Thinly sliced bara menyn (like my nana used to do!) and scones with butter and jam or cheese? Seemed reasonable…

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Best cup of tea since we arrived!

Oh, and the FIVE slices of cake EACH that we were supposed to devour?!?!smushDSCF0603

Luckily the nice lady who runs the place with her brother was happy to spend time walking us through the various newspaper clippings and photos on the walls depicting the family history, while we did our best to digest. I managed to stumble through a couple of sentences of remembered Welsh (dwi wedi dysgu siarad cymraeg yn yr ysgol etc etc…) and got a bit emotional when talking about male voice choirs, which went down well. She finally took pity on us and let us take the remains as takeaway.

Y ddraig goch as part of the local flag:

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Even the local flora reminded me of my childhood in the Welsh countryside, with wild-growing hedgerow plants like lupins, forget-me-nots, marigolds, poppies, sweet peas, not to mention the apple trees and cherry trees in blossom, and more hawthorn blossom than I’ve seen:

 

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Interesting architecture – mostly apparently timber-framed houses, but with cladding of everything between the stylish brick or stone…

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…to the somewhat twee log-cabin style.

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This is the local museum, build in the reconstruction of the original mill (felin – hence Tre-velin or ‘Mill town’):

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Fantastic building and a really great social history museum. Amazing that so many photographs survived the hardships of the pioneer lifestyle!

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Terrifying steam tractor.

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1917 thresher
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Some of the early settlers in Trevelin
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Chairs for the local eisteddfod. Note one is from Aberystwyth!

On our last day we headed back to Esquel for a round trip on ‘La Trochita‘ – an old narrow-gauge steam train that Paul Theroux was famously sniffy about and that now does tourist trips from Esquel to Nahuel Pan (or further, on special request, for the SERIOUS rail-geeks).

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An original first class passenger car (many original cars were cargo).
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Wood-burning stove for heat and food on those long journeys. What could possibly go wrong?

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The rules…
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1929 train toilet (1)
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1929 train toilet (2)

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Good news! At the station in Nahuel Pan they do spicy hotdogs!

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Next, Bariloche…

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